The Seahawks resoundingly quashed one Super Bowl jinx Saturday night, becoming the first defending champion since the 2005 New England Patriots to win a playoff game. In emphatic fashion, with a big second half, the Seahawks rolled to a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field to reach their second consecutive NFC Championship.
With eight consecutive playoff wins at home, the Seahawks will face the Green Bay Packers next Sunday. The Packers defeated Dallas 26-21 at Lambeau Field Sunday.
“This is just so much fun,” said coach Pete Carroll. “I’m glad we have an opportunity to bring another one to the 12s next week.”
Russell Wilson threw three third-down touchdown passes to three receivers and Kam Chancellor starred defensively with eight tackles and the game-clinching pick six. The Seahawks turned a close game (up 14-10) at halftime into a rout.
Wilson threw a 15-yard score to Doug Baldwin in the first quarter, a 63-yard bomb to Jermaine Kearse in the second and a 25-yarder to TE Luke Willson in the fourth.
The throw to Willson staked Seattle to a 24-10 lead. Then Chancellor, who stunningly hurdled the Carolina offensive line twice — a la Edwin Moses — in an attempt to block field goals, iced it with a 90-yard interception return, the longest-scoring play in Seattle’s postseason history.
“I just jumped the route,” said Chancellor. “(Quarterback Cam Newton) didn’t see me. It felt awesome running free.”
“Those guys (the Panthers) just battled, battled, battled, but for us it’s all about finishing,” said linebacker Bruce Irvin.
On a night when the Panthers held the Seahawks to 100 rushing yards, 59 by Marshawn Lynch, Wilson was nearly flawless. He completed 15 of 22 for 268 yards, didn’t throw an interception and finished with a 149.2 passer rating (158.3 is perfect).
More significantly, Wilson on third down went 8-for-8 for 199 yards and all three of his scores.
“He just had a great night,” said Carroll. “When you go 8-for-8 and 199 on third down, that’s as good as it can get.”
Although the Panthers controlled the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer than the Seahawks, Wilson countered with big plays. After he gave Seattle a 7-0 lead with the pass to Baldwin, Newton took the Panthers 79 yards in 14 plays, throwing the first of his first two touchdown passes to rookie Kelvin Benjamin.
Wilson’s bomb to Kearse, who caught three passes for 129 yards, gave Seattle a 14-7 lead, but Newton got the Panthers into scoring position just before halftime.
FS Earl Thomas nearly intercepted Newton at the goal line — the officials ruled he didn’t control the ball as he landed — and that provided Carolina an opportunity for a field goal.
Chancellor hurdled the Panthers’ offensive line in an attempt at a block, but a penalty on Carolina wiped out the play. On Graham Gano’s re-try, Chancellor again leapfrogged the line, but ran into Gano, whose kick was shanked. Since the Chancellor penalty made for a third attempt, Gano finally succeeded to make it 14-10 at halftime.
After Steven Hauschka hit a 37-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, Willson made two spectacular plays. He caught a short pass, was wrapped up, but broke free and turned the play into a 29-yard gain. Then he caught a 25-yard touchdown pass.
Willson, an emerging presence in Seattle’s offense, said, “I had never scored a touchdown at home in front of the 12s, and I figured this was the time to do it.”
“Everything started with the offensive line,” said Wilson, sacked twice. “They gave me time to make some decisions. “It’s exciting to be back in the NFC Championship but the job isn’t done. Well take everything from here one game at a time like we always do. Whoever we play next (Dallas or Green Bay), they’ve got phenomenal quarterbacks, so it’s going to be one for the ages.”
The 63-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Kearse in the second quarter was the longest in Seattle postseason history, eclipsing the mark of 56 from Dave Krieg to Steve Largent at Miami Dec. 29, 1984 . . . Wilson has a 25-2 record at CenturyLink Field, including regular season and postseason . . . CB Byron Maxwell, sick earlier in the week, left the game early with shortness of breath and was replaced by Tharold Simon. Maxwell played on special teams . . .WR Paul Richardson suffered a sprained knee in the second half and did not return . . . Center Max Unger, who had just returned to the lineup, rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter. No prognosis yet on the severity . . . The Seahawks are 13-12 all-time in the postseason with a 10-2 home record.
The NFC Championship between the Seahawks and either the Packers or Cowboys will kick off at noon next Sunday on FOX.
1st Qtr. (Seahawks 7-0): Doug Baldwin 16 pass from Russell Wilson (Steven Hauschka kick), 0:56. Drive: 4 plays, 28 yards in 1:26. Key Plays: Tony McDaniel fumble recovery at Carolina 29; Baldwin 11 pass from Wilson.
2nd Qtr. (Panthers 7-7): Kelvin Benjamin 7 pass from Cam Newton (Graham Gano kick), 7:44. Drive: 14 plays, 79 yards in 8:12. Key Plays: Jonathan Stewart 15 run; DeAngelo Williams 8 run.
2nd Qtr. (Seahawks 14-7): Jermaine Kearse 63 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 4:54. Drive: 5 plays, 77 yards in 2:50.
2nd Qtr. (Panthers 14-10): Gano 35 FG, 0:00. Drive: 13 plays, 62 yards in 4:54. Key Play: 15-yard penalty on McDaniel gave Carolina first down at Seahawks 36.
4th Qtr. (Seahawks 17-10): Hauschka 37 FG, 14:55. Drive: 12 plays, 69 yards in 5:32. Key Plays: Wilson 14-yard scramble; Lynch 25-yard run.
4th Qtr. (Seahawks 24-10): Luke Willson 25 pass from Wilson (Hauschka kick), 10:26. Drive: 6 plays, 59 yards in 2:27. Key Plays: Willson 29 pass from Wilson to Carolina 25.
4th Qtr. (Seahawks 31-10): Kam Chancellor 90 INT return (Hauschka kick), 5:55. Drive: 8 plays, 67 yards in 4:31.
4th Qtr. (Panthers 31-17): Benjamin 15 pass from Newton (Gano kick), 2:34. Drive: 8 plays, 83 yards in 3:21. Key Play: Greg Olsen 31 pass from Newton.
You know, every game gets an MVP, and that’s nice. The Seahawks should recognize a BAMFP. I’m thinking Kam Chancellor would be my pick tonight.
Hats off to Carolina for a mostly well-executed game plan. Save for the two interceptions, that was the best passing performance I’ve ever seen from Cam Newton. The time of possession stay is testimony to the Panthers execution.
But they simply came up against a juggernaut of team. The Hawks are playing opponent independent football. It doesn’t seem to matter what or how well a team game-plans for them. The Seahawks have too many facets to deal with on offense and have begun executing on that side of the ball.
Defensively, they the pass rush appeared to have missed the presence of Jordan Hill, but was backed up by the LOB. Cam Chacellor basically told eery sportswriter in America what they can do with their ‘second-team’ all pro vote.
Carolina game-planned well. The time of possession was scary. At half-time I had a bad feeling. The Panthers were running the ball and starting to control the line of scrimmage. But the Seahawks did like they always seem to do: pull away in the 2nd half. I think they’ll need to play better next week to advance to the Super Bowl. I hope they get another shot at the Cowboys, as scary as that might sound. Beating them in the NFC Championship would be . . . delicious.
I think for the teams with Byes the first home game is usually tougher to play well, they are rusty playing a team that just came off a big win. I know the SF game last year was obviously really close while the Saints game was a fairly easy win. But that was because the Niners played out of their minds, probably one if the best games I’ve ever seen where both teams were just flat out playing incredible. If the Hawks had played them the way they played the Saints they’d have lost.
Good thing this one was against a team that went 7-9, but the Seahawks kept up what seems to have become a trend of fourth-quarter pullaways. Like Matt below, I was a little concerned that Carolina (and Stewart in particular) had their ground game going in the first half, but Seattle obviously made some adjustments at halftime and made things tougher for the Panthers’ rushers the rest of the way. Kudos to Luke Willson, too. Good to see him score a TD at home and his run after the catch on his previous reception during that drive was highlight-reel stuff.
I hadn’t been aware that no returning Super Bowl champion hadn’t won a single playoff game in their follow-up season, but I haven’t seen a let-up with the Seahawks’ mentality since they jettisoned Harvin to New York…I wonder if he’d become more of a distraction than is being let on because that seems to have been the point when things returned from mediocre to dominant.
Thanks for using “quash” instead of “squash.” So refreshing.
“Wait, what?” Teams that were thinking about adopting Seahawks run heavy offense.